In the recent years it has become more common for adolescents to pick one sport and “specialize” in it. Students are starting as young as elementary age and they are picking one sport and playing all year round. They are not getting the mental and physical diversity of playing a different sport in every season. Sports have expanded to travel teams, club teams and off season teams to give kids the opportunity to focus and become “better” at one sport. Is this beneficial? Is it beneficial for kids to develop one set of skills or is it more important to have diversified skills and movements to allow the body to become stronger and more functional? As parents and coaches we sometimes forget that the body is still developing in adolescent years and by focusing on only one set of skills we may be setting our children up for future injuries.
In a recent study, it was shown that high school athletes who “specialize” in one sport for 8 or months out of the year were more likely to report an overuse injury.
What is an overuse injury? Overuse comes for using a specific muscle, tendon or joint too may times without giving it rest. Once kids decide to specialize in a specific sport they begin to use the same muscles in the same manner over and over again in order to fine tune their skills and become better at a task. Practice makes perfect, right? Actually, by promoting this we are setting our athletes up to injure those specific muscles. Tennis elbow comes from using one arm more than the other; so if a soccer player only ever kicks with his right leg, he is being set up to overuse that leg. Athletes benefit from cross training. It is important to strengthen and condition the other muscles in the body to prevent an injury from occurring. We may find less students with injuries if we begin to promote adjunct therapies or sports in order to give specific muscles a rest and prevent an overuse injury from occurring.
Priority physical therapy can get your child set up on an exercise program that can compliment your child’s activity and decrease the risk of these injuries. Whether they want to focus on basketball, soccer or football, other strengthening can be very beneficial. Call today to set up an appointment or ask questions regarding your athlete.